I had an amazing week of learning and connecting with old friends at the New Comm Forum in San Francisco taking time out to attend sessions and explore social media through the different lenses of the presenters. We talked about so many issues relating to social media – Twitter, consumer communities, professional communities, the evolving role of journalism and the transformational effects of social media on journalism and PR. It is definitely an honor to be a fellow for the Society of New Communications Research (SNCR) this year – and I am wondering if these conferences and research efforts produced by SNCR may be a modern-day like Bloomsbury Group.
The presentations from the New Comm Forum can be found here. Some of my favorites included Jenn Mcclure‘s panel on Trends in Journalism; Shel Hotz on Social Media and Crisis Communications and Adrian Chan on What can we learn from Social Interaction Design? And, while I wasn’t able to attend Arthur Maruggi’s presentation, I had a chance to speak with him offline and his ideas and POV are very insightful. Marketing Mystic is great blog that is covering the conference with case studies about the findings. My presentation on Enterprise Communities was interesting as well as a lively discussion ensued about the differences between consumer communities and enterprise communities.
While the tools and techniques are different, as brought to light by the different presentations and discussion, the driving commonalities are the users, the members, the recipients and participators within the social media efforts. The journey of the users or online participants remains, I believe, largely the same regardless of where the social media road begins. And, the goals of each social media or community footprint is the same – to engage users, provide value and a platform for collaboration and co-creation. But this kind of engagement does not tend to happen naturally for most users – it is a learned behavior – one that takes time and experience to cultivate. What are the stages for user involvement – whether it’s on Twitter, Slideshare, YouTube or an online community? What are the similarities characteristics and engagement triggers through out the user lifecycle?
At the end of the day, it seems that every user goes through four stages of activity within an online community: being online, doing online, acting online and finally, thinking online. Each of these stages represent a greater level of user engagement and involvement with the content and with the other users or members of the community.
At each stage, different tools and techniques are used to capture the user’s attention, support and sustain their current activity and encourage participation at the next level of involvement. The end state is a user who is active and engaged, who visits regularly, who makes useful contributions, who collaborates widely, who offers help and guidance to other users and is viewed as a “model” participant or mentor and is a recognized leader within the community.
These stages of user activity and behavior offer a strategic framework for applying the various techniques and activities needed to build user engagement. Keep in mind these stages are layers. For example, at the second stage, the user is being and doing online, so both the being and doing resources apply to this second stage user. Therefore, the fourth-stage user benefits from the techniques used at all four stages.
Stage One — Being Online Characteristics: New and infrequent users who may be hesitant to participate or contribute. They may feel unsure about the technology or uncertain about what is expected of them. They need training, support resources, mentors and models to follow. Engagement resources: Calls to action; on ramps for different user types.
Stage Two — Doing Online Characteristics: Occasional users who interact with existing content. They may post documents or make comments. They are contributing to the overall information but have not yet expanded their participation into new or unfamiliar areas. They need to be encouraged to increase participation and experiment. Engagement resources: Basic user recognition incentives and rewards; best practice examples to support more participation and experimentation; receive mentor ship.
Stage Three — Acting OnlineCharacteristics: Regular users who make frequent contributions; set up new projects; offer help and support when asked; experiment with tool uses. Engagement resources: encourage user-to-user support and leadership; intermediate user recognition incentives and rewards; best practice contributors.
Stage Four — Thinking Online Characteristics: Most active and engaged users; problem-solvers and inventors of new uses for tools; invested in use of the community based on successful outcomes. Engagement resources: Leadership and governance opportunities; advisory board members; best practice award recipients; advanced user recognition incentives and rewards including site performance metrics; mentors.
As users, members of the social media community of collaborators move through these kinds of stages, they (we) grow in our understanding of social media and enable our participation to be increasingly fruitful.
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